The national indecency debate boiled over in February 2004, during the Super Bowl halftime show on CBS, after singer Janet Jackson’s right breast was briefly exposed.
In a landmark ruling, a federal appeals court has sided with broadcasters against the Federal Communications Commission on the issue of indecency, saying the regulatory body has not adequately explained how the Constitution could permit the censorship of “indecent” language.
A federal appeals court tossed out an indecency ruling against Rupert Murdoch’s Fox television network [Monday] and broadly questioned whether the Federal Communications Commission has the right to police the airwaves for offensive language.
In a 2 to 1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York ruled that the FCC went too far in issuing a 2006 decision against Fox Broadcasting for separate incidents in 2002 and 2003 after singer Cher and celebrity Nicole Richie each uttered an expletive on live television.
The ruling is a rebuke to the FCC and a victory for television networks, which in recent years have pushed back against the FCC’s crackdown on indecency. In 2004, the agency reversed years of policy and effectively branded even “fleeting,” or one-time, use of an expletive off-limits on broadcast television and radio, angering Hollywood, which warned of a chilling effect on programming.